Transcript - Doorstop Interview (Parliament House, Canberra)



SUBJECT/S: Australians Doubly Disillusioned With Turnbull, Government Policy Dysfunction

WAYNE SWAN: Well, that was a valiant attempt from the Government to pretend that they’ve actually got a policy process – which they don’t. We’ve got an unprecedented situation at the moment where the Treasurer and the Treasury have been sidelined from the Government’s policy process. This reveals a level of dysfunction and disunity within the Government that is stopping it from properly considering policy. The Treasurer has simply been sidelined because the Prime Minister has no confidence in the Treasurer. The head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has now been put in charge of a policy process that should have been completed months ago and the reason it hasn’t been completed is dysfunction and disunity within the Government. I think this is the reason that Australians are doubly disillusioned with Malcolm Turnbull. The dysfunction and disunity within the Government is impeding the policy process and nothing could be more reckless, or ill-considered than sidelining the Treasurer and the Treasury in the policy making process.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t it a bit irresponsible for you – a bit hypocritical – for you to come out talk about divisions within the Government after what happened with Labor’s government?

SWAN: Well, let’s just look at where we’ve been for the last two and a half years: two Prime Ministers and two Treasurers. This Prime Minister and this Treasurer have really set a land speed record for falling out with each other. It’s less than six months since the Prime Minister came to office and appointed Mr Morrison as Treasurer and within months they were at each other’s throats and it’s continued, and that’s the reason there’s not a coherent, responsible, methodical policy making process happening within the Government.

JOURNALIST: The Treasurer would say that there is there is a coherent and methodical process it just hasn’t been announced yet…

SWAN: So the policy they’ve already decided on hasn’t had a process to decide on. Is that what you’re saying?

JOURNALIST: No, I’m saying that they’re considering changes methodically and carefully and they’re going to announce them when they’re ready.

SWAN: Let’s just go through them: two and a half years in government, the Prime Minster came to power last September, appointed Mr Morrison. We’re now six months on and we’re still getting a process and that new process excludes the Treasurer and the Treasury – absolutely unprecedented in Australian political history. These two guys have fallen out in record time.  You can go back over past treasurers and past prime ministers and not see anything like we’ve seen here and that’s the reason there’s so much dysfunction in the Government and why there’s not a tax policy and why there’s such a fractious debate and why the backbench is up in arms.

JOURNALIST: Don’t you think there is some merit though waiting to announce a proposal when it’s ready rather than rather than say coming out and announcing four years of surplus?

SWAN: It’s worse than that. It’s actually a lot worse than that. We had the news last week that the Treasury had been removed from the so called policy process you’re talking about. The Government said that Dr Parkinson would now lead that process. I don’t think you’ll find anywhere in Australian administrative or policy history a precedent for what occurred last week. And what that represents is that the fact is the Prime Minister has no confidence in the Treasurer and that the policy development process is completely and utterly dysfunctional and the rest of the words you’re hearing from the government and their backbenchers about trying to camouflage that very fact..

JOURNALIST: Martin Parkinson used to be head of Treasury; are you casting doubt…

SWAN: Well, he used to be my department head that’s why I know something about these processes. I was Treasurer for nearly six years, before me Peter Costello was there for 12 years, before him Paul Keating was there for nine years at no stage of any of those processes was the Treasury removed from the Budget process. Consider this, the Treasury and the Treasurer have been removed from the policy making process – absolutely unprecedented. And the reason is the Prime Minister has no confidence in the Treasurer. Now the journalists know that because they’re getting the background briefings and that’s why this process is so dysfunctional the Prime Minister has no confidence in the Treasurer.

JOURNALIST: Do you have full confidence in Labor’s negative gearing policy?

SWAN: Too right I do.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to claims that it could see house prices plunge?

SWAN: Well, this is rubbish. This is the sort of counterattack you expect to see from Tony Abbott. It’s entirely negative, it’s incorrect, it’s not backed up by facts and it’s most certainly not backed up by any considered analysis because as I’ve just demonstrated to you the Government doesn’t have a process to get considered analysis.

JOURNALIST: Would you like to see the Labor Party open to a few more issues on tax like the possibility of looking at the GST down the track?

SWAN: We’re not looking at the GST at all but that’s a matter for our front bench, thanks very much.